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Hot and Cold

 

I put on a new chain, filled the gas and oil tanks and went out with my chainsaw to tackle a large pile of logs and limbs in the backyard. My tendency to procrastinate had allowed the pile to grow all summer, but my son James had offered to help and this needed to be done. So, on one of the hottest days of the year, I cut wood to use on some of the coldest. We will probably burn these logs in the woodstove around January or February.

Our house has electric heat and in the Pacific Northwest electricity is affordable, but on those really cold days, the woodstove heats our home better than anything else does.

There is a natural rhythm to life in the country. In March as the days grow longer and warmer the chickens go into full summer egg production. In April we hive bees. In May the garden is tilled and planted. During the summer we cut trees (usually the dead or fallen), tend animals and care for the garden. Honey is spun from the honeycomb in September. Also during that month fruits and vegetables are canned and preserved.

Part of that natural rhythm is the cold of January and February. Some years our woodstove will burn for days on end during this time.

By late in the afternoon the chain on the saw had gone dull, but the pile had been reduced to logs and hauled into the woodshed. We were hot and tired, but ready for the cold days of winter.

As I drank a tall glass of cold water I made a pledge to myself. Next year I’m going to cut wood on a cooler day.


Click on the following links to read my author bio, life in Lewis County or more about my life on the farm.

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Water and Rain in the Northwest

There is a saying that people in the northwest don’t tan—they rust. The coastal region of Washington is well known for ample precipitation. However, most of the rain falls in late autumn and winter. By the time the crops, garden, and orchard are really growing in the late spring and summer the rains have faded to a trickle. That means we irrigate and water.

Kyle checking the hand pump (Click for a larger image)

My place is small, more of a hobby farm than a real one, but watering remains a daily chore. In the picture I’m beside the well house, checking the hand pump. Fortunately, this is just an emergency backup and the electric pump is still working. 

This time of year we water the younger fruit and nut trees in the orchard and all the plants in the garden daily. Each beehive has a water bottle and there are several for the chickens that must be routinely checked. We also have flowers and ornamental trees.

Right now, with both my wife and I working, it takes about an hour each evening to water everything. As the summer continues, and days get warmer, we’ll be doing this in both the morning and evening. But, I'm not complaining, I love the life I have here and wouldn't trade it for anything.


Click on the following links to read my author bio, life in Lewis County or more about my life on the farm.

 To receive a weekly digest of blogposts delivered to your inbox click Follow me

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Hiving the Bees

Spring is bee time on the farm

 Yes, those are bees on the box.

Yes, those are bees on the box.

The bees didn’t arrive yesterday, a warm and sunny day. No, they arrived today when it was cool and wet. We prefer driving to the delivery site in the farm truck. We can put the bee boxes on the truck bed and drive home, but because today was so inclement we took the car for the forty-minute drive. Have you ever driven with ten thousand bees in your car? Our bees were inside two boxes, but it’s still an experience. Some always find a way out.  

On our small farm, we keep bees both for pollination and for honey production, but we lost our last hive during the winter. This video, filmed on April 22, 2017, starts with me retrieving one of our two new colonies of Carniolan honeybees from the greenhouse where we left them while making final hiving preparations.

Lorraine, my wife, went ahead and waited to assist me in the apiary. My son, James, is the cameraman and isn’t wearing a protective suit while he films.

Hopefully, these bees will store up lots of pollen and honey during the summer and survive the upcoming winter.


Click on the following links to read my author bio to read more about my life on the farm, or see more blogposts with video.

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Death in the Apiary

We had a week of cold and snow on the farm. 

The weather made for some beautiful pictures, which you can see on the Facebook page, but it got very cold. On a mild day this week my wife came in from outside and said, “There’s no activity in the apiary.”

Author Kyle Pratt checks a hive

I like to keep two colonies, but one colony had died last year. I hurried to my one remaining colony.

Bees are very clean and will not defecate in the hive. So, on mild winter days they fly out to take care of business. As I approached it was clear no bees were busy doing business. I put my ear to the hive. No buzzing.

At that point I opened the hive. Thousands of bees were there in a tight cluster—all dead.

Since I see each colony as being in my care, it really saddens me if one dies. I feel there is always something more I could have, or should have, done.
 
After a few days of mourning, I’ll clean out the hive boxes and order two more colonies of Carniolan honey bees through my local bee association.
 
Hopefully, next winter will be mild. 


Click on the following links to read my author bio or read more about my life on the farm.

 To receive a weekly digest of blogposts delivered to your inbox click Follow me

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Prepping for Tomorrow

This Thursday, August 11th, I’ll be on the Prepping for Tomorrow podcast with bestselling author Bobby Akart.

Bobby is a five-time Amazon Top 50 author of seven number one bestsellers in both fiction (Blackout Series and Boston Brahmin Series) and non-fiction (Prepping for Tomorrow Series) genres.

The Prepping for Tomorrow podcast features interviews with leading post-apocalyptic fiction authors, such as Steve Konkoly, Franklin Horton, and Claire C. Riley, as well as experts in the field of survival and preparedness. Bobby, the creator of Freedom Preppers, focuses on tips, techniques and the importance of prepper fiction in developing a well-rounded, but comprehensive, preparedness plan.

I really don’t know where Bobby gets the time for all he does. The podcast will be live at 6:00pm Thursday, Pacific Time (Friday, 1:00am UTC). I’ll be joining Bobby after his introductory remarks. We’ll be talking about my Strengthen What Remains Series, writing, and the real concerns about being ready in an uncertain world.

If you don’t catch it live you can still hear the recorded version, simply click here, and check the archived shows. I’m thrilled to talk with him and I invite you to listen and be a part of the conversation. For more information, or to listen live, click here

Spring on the Farm

The greening of the farm inspired me.

As many of you know, I live on a small farm and spring is always a very special time. After a cold and wet (Pacific Northwest) winter it is time to get outside and repair fences, gates and the broken hen house door.

 The redneck joke is on me--chickens in the house.

The redneck joke is on me--chickens in the house.

The greenhouse is so full of budding vegetables that my wife has many in Styrofoam cups on south facing window sills. Peas grow in the garden and the forest is green once again. Tadpoles swim in the pond and chicks are in the house.

That last one may have surprised you.

Those who grew up in the city would certainly find it weird to have baby chicks in the house, but it is still early spring and many days remain still cool and wet. Chicks need a warm and dry location to grow. The picture shows six Ameraucana chicks under a heat lamp in our entryway. Chickens can be really nasty to each other so, in a few months, when they are older, we’ll put them outside, but in a separate area of the chicken yard, and gradually introduce them to the other chickens.

Ah, the rituals of spring! 

Honey Harvest for 2015

The honey harvest this year was very good.

Kyle Pratt ready to harvest from one of his hives.

We have only two hives on our small farm, but even so, the harvest takes nearly all day. After breakfast we set up the equipment, including our honey extractor (basically a hand-crank centrifuge), stainless steel buckets, a couple of food-grade plastic pails, strainers and assorted tools.

Kyle Pratt harvesting honey.

Then we don all of our protective gear because the bees really don’t like what we are about to do. By nine in the morning we are at the apiary and I pulled off the lid of the first hive. The top of the frames in the honey super were covered with thousands of bees and more were inside. Every bee had to be brushed off before the honey frame could be taken. 

By the time my wife and I were done the bees were very mad. That’s why I do the harvest inside. If I harvested outside all those outraged bees would crawl over everything and try to sting me. After I removed the appropriate frames and brushed off the bees, I passed them to my wife. She took them to our garage, where we had everything ready for extraction.

Lorraine Pratt looks over twenty pounds of honey.

When I finished, and closed the hives, I joined my wife inside for the harvest. Using a long knife we cut the comb open and place the frames into the centrifuge. Then I cranked and cranked. It takes a lot of arm work, but the honey soon begins to flow and continues in a slow stream for hours. By the end of the day, my wife and I harvested 308 fluid ounces of honey or over twenty pounds.

Don’t worry about the bees. We take only the excess; most of the honey is left in the hive, so they can eat during the winter.

A Great Complement

The editor of Backdoor Survival compares A Time to Endure to Patriots.

It amazes me how often events in life come in pairs. A few days ago I discovered that New York Times best-selling author, and the editor of SurvivalBlog, James Wesley Rawles recommended my novel, Through Many Fires.

A Time to Endure, by Kyle Pratt and Patriots, by James Wesley Rawles

Then Gaye Levy, editor of Backdoor Survival, one of the top survival and preparedness websites, reviewed A Time to Endure, the sequel to Through Many Fires and compared it favorably to Patriots, the first of a five book series, by Rawles. While the series as a whole has been well received the first novel, Patriots, has achieved a cult-like following in the prepper community.

A Time to Endure Compares to Patriots

In the review she states, “Halfway through (A Time to Endure) a lightbulb went off in my head. The...lessons I was learning not only rivaled those in Rawles’ Patriots, but they were kinder, gentler and less militaristic, in nature.” She goes on to say, “Whether you are new to the genre and to prepping, or an old pro like me, consider adding this book to your collection. You will not be disappointed.”

I’m grateful for the review and humbled by the comparison. 

How Did I Miss This?

I regularly visit SurvivalBlog, but somehow I missed this.

For many years SurvivalBlog was the top site among preppers. While the blog has fallen to fourth place in the rankings recently, the editor, James Wesley Rawles, remains the best known writer in the prepping field. He is also the New York Times best-selling author of the Patriots Novels.

While I don’t visit the site every day, I do consider myself a regular reader. So, I don’t know how I missed it when Mr. Rawles recently recommended my book, Through Many Fires, Strengthen What Remains.

Thank you, Mr. Rawles!

Interview and Review

The editor of Backdoor Survival, Gaye Levy, recently interviewed me and reviewed my latest book, A Time to Endure.

Backdoor Survival is a top ranked survival and preparedness website.

The site provides lifestyle tools, tips, and resources to guide readers through the economic, political, environmental challenges we all face. Because of my own interest in survival and prepping, I’ve visited Backdoor Survival many times. Even before the release of my first survival themed book I was a regular visitor. However, when I released Through Many Fires, it seemed only natural to send a copy to Gaye.

She was kind enough to review the book and interview me. Then she made Through Many Fires part of the Backdoor Survival Book Festival for the Spring of 2014.

This year as part of the website’s Prepper Book Festival, the second book in the series, A Time to Endure, is featured. In the second book, A Time to Endure, the nation’s economy teeters on the verge of collapse. The dollar plunges, inflation runs rampant, and the next civil war threatens to decimate the wounded country. In the face of tyranny, panic, and growing hunger, Caden struggles to keep his family and town together and alive, but how can he when the nation is collapsing around them?

I found the comments below from Gaye’s recent review to be very kind and humbling.

“At some point you might be scratching your head and thinking, how the heck does Gaye read all of these books? One a week? Holy moly!

“The truth of the matter is that sometimes I read just a few chapters and other times I do a quick skim. After all, I do need to preview these books to ensure they are suitable to Backdoor Survival readers. A few, however, I read cover to cover, or if I can, listen via audiobook.

“Kyle’s books are the cover-to-cover type. I know you will enjoy both Through Many Fires and A Time to Endure. Just don’t blame me if you are sleepy the next the day for staying up to all hours reading! One other thing. Kyle’s books are some of the most reasonably priced books in the post-apocalyptic genre on Amazon.”

Thank you, Gaye.

Win A Time to Endure

As part of this year’s Prepper Book Festival  Gaye and I are conducting a book giveaway contest. Ten readers of Backdoor Survival will receive their choice of the paperback, ebook or audiobook of A Time to Endure.

There are still two days left on the contest so, go visit Backdoor Survival and, enter to win A Time to Endure.

The New Hive

Spring is a busy time for the beekeeper.

I only had one bee colony that survived the winter and I have been feeding them a sugar-water syrup for a few weeks. Thursday night my new colony of bees arrived.  

My surviving colony is of Italian bees, from the Apennine Peninsula of Italy, they are the most popular type of bee in America, but may not be the best suited the Pacific Northwest. Since I was ordering a new colony I decided to get Carniolan bees, from the region of Carniola, now in Slovenia. They are the second most popular species among beekeepers and are known for working in cooler temperatures, resistance to some diseases and parasites and being adept at adjusting worker population to nectar availability. This may help in early spring.

I won’t really know if they are a good fit for my apiary for about a year, but you rest assured I’ll keep you informed. 

Opening the Hive

Spring time brings extra chores for those living on a farm.

Normally, I keep two bee colonies, but only one survived the winter. On a warm day earlier this month I opened the remaining hive to check on the colony. I try to find the queen, see if she is laying eggs, ensure there is enough food and, check to see if they workers are planning to swarm (break away and form a new colony).

Taking the hive apart gets the bees very mad. I was fully suited up and not worried, but my brave wife, Lorraine, did the video. That meant she needed one hand uncovered to control the camera. At one point several bees landed on her hand. Fortunately, for both of us, she didn’t get stung.

I didn’t find the queen, but everything else looked healthy. I’ve have another colony of bees on order. They should arrive in April.

I wonder if I can get Lorraine to film that? 

Busy Bees & Keepers

Spring is a busy time for bees and beekeepers.

For most of the country this winter has snowy and cold, but in western Washington state the weather has been mild. As a beekeeper this is both a blessing and a problem.

If the winter is short and mild it is a blessing in that the bees use less food and plants bloom early. This gives the bees a longer period to build up supplies for the next winter. However, the weather is mild, but winter returns, the entire colony might starve because of the postponed spring. Right now it looks like winter will continue to fade away.

I have three hives (the boxes), but only keep two colonies of bees for to pollenate my garden and orchard. While I’ve done this for eight years, what I know I learned through trial and error (many errors) and by reading books. I’ve never taken a class—until now. I took this picture as the second session of the apprentice beekeeping class ended today. While I’m probably beyond the apprentice level, I’ve learned things during both sessions. The class has three more sessions.

The smiling woman, with lanyard, is Susanne Weil, one of the officers of our local beekeeping association. She is standing behind two hive boxes.

I have only one colony of bees, but I’ll be ordering a package of bees in a couple of days. A package consists of a queen and around 2000 bees in a box. While they arrive I’ll do a blogpost about it.  

Archery for Fun and Defense

As a prepper I don’t want to hurt anyone, but I want to be ready to defend myself.

Bows and arrows have always been of interest to me but, I admit, I’ve done little to develop my ability with them.

Thanks in part to the “The Hunger Games,” “Brave,” and even the recent “Avengers” movie, interest in archery has climbed. USA Archery, the governing body for the Olympic sport has shown staggering growth over the last few years. In the past year membership in local clubs has increased 54%.

With all that in mind, one of my sons recently sent me the link to this video. I encourage you to watch it. Frankly I had no idea such feats of ability could be achieved with a bow.

I think I should get my bow out and start practicing. 

Living What I Write

I don’t just write survival or prepper themed books, I live the life.

Kyle Pratt with a bee frame

Many of the people who aren’t involved in prepping think of those who are as crazy. I think of prepping as insurance against unforeseen problems. Where I live in Lewis county, Washington state, it can flood this time of year. During winter storms the power can go out. I like knowing that I’m prepared.

As part of my chosen lifestyle I live on a small farm. Most farm activities lend themselves naturally to a prepping lifestyle. One thing we do on the farm is raise bees. It’s a small operation, only two honey bee hives, but we usually harvest a nice amount of honey.

Lewis County Beekeepers Assn. meeting

I’ve been a member of the Lewis County Beekeepers’ Association for years. A few days ago I showed up for a meeting and noticed a sign by the door, “Capacity 82.” The room was nearly full when I showed up so, just to amuse myself, I counted heads. There were over seventy people in the room. It was nice to see that many people interested in bees from our rural county. Especially, this time of year when the bees are in their winter cluster in the hive.

Orchard Mason bee homes and supplies

The topic that night was the orchard mason bee, a native bee of North America that is also dormant this time of year. The speaker, Tim Weible shared some great information about how to build mason bee houses (they don’t live in hives), their biology, coping with mites and more.

I live close to nature and when the animals, insects and planets on the farm are doing well I know that I’m better prepared for whatever might come.

Apartment Prepper Review

I write books about the need to be ready, but others write about how to be ready.

Apartment Prepper is one of the top blogs on readiness. There you will find information on urban survival and prepping.

Because Apartment Prepper is one of the leading blogs in this area, I am proud that editor Bernie Carr gave Through Many Fires a very nice review earlier this year and now has done the same for my newest release, book two of the Strengthen What Remains series, A Time to Endure.

In her blogpost review Carr describes A Time to Endure as “fast paced” and with “enough action to keep the pages turning.” She concludes by saying, “A Time to Endure is a good read and we look forward to the third book.”

Along with the review Apartment Prepper is running a giveaway. If you want to read the full review or you haven’t yet bought a copy of A Time to Endure and would like to win one, go here and enter a comment on the question at the end of the blogpost for a chance to win.

Preparedness Books Blog Tour

What would happen to you if a disaster were to strike tomorrow?

That is the opening question on the Survivor Jane website and it is a question all of us should be able to answer, but many of us can’t.

SurvivorJane.com was originally created for women or as Jane describes it, “girly-girls who were a lot like me not too long ago,” The site has since branched out to women in all walks of life as well as men, but Survivor Jane remains the number one survival preparedness website for women. Jane is also an author and appeared on Doomsday Preppers in season 4.

However, the reason I’m writing about the site is because my books have been featured on the website, both in December of last year and just days ago.

In December Through Many Fires was featured with a synopsis of the book and a bio on me. Then, this month, A Time to Endure received the same.

I’ve enjoyed working with Jane and look forward to doing so when the third book in the series is released.

Great Response

The response to the recent interview on ApartmentPrepper.com was great.

As part of the interview we gave away copies of Through Many Fires in paperback, Kindle and audiobook format. You can read the interview here.

ApartmentPrepper.com provides information on preparedness and survival aimed at a more urban readership. Also, over the last few years, they have featured significant books in the survival genre such as Expatriates, by James Wesley Rawles, and Apocalypse Drift by Joe Nobody. I’m pleased that Through Many Fires is now and will be a part of that group.

Because of good reaction to the interview and giveaway we are now advertising on this leading survival and preparedness website.

More on Backdoor Survival

Through Many Fires is featured in Backdoor Survival’s fifth Book Festival

About two weeks ago the website Backdoor Survival, one of the top five survival and prepping websites, announced that Through Many Fires would was selected to be part of their Spring 2014 Book Festival. Today, as part of the ongoing event my novel was featured. The editor also interviewed me and asked about upcoming books.

I’m pleased to be a part of their survival book festival which, in the past, has featured a number of bestselling books in the post-apocalyptic genre including, Expatriates, by James Wesley Rawles, and Apocalypse Drift by Joe Nobody and The Long Road, by G. Michael Hopf.

As part of the book festival promotion I’m offering ten copies of Through Many Fires. Winners can choose either paperback, audiobook or ebook format.

I encourage everyone to peruse the site, read the interview, and if you don’t own a copy of Through Many Fires to register for a chance to win.